"(We want to) just remove all of that misogyny"
The couple behind MyMuse say they want to take the “shame, guilt and fear” out of sex in India.
MyMuse sells products such as sex toys but in India, discussions around intimacy are still taboo.
The founders, Anushka and Sahil Gupta are tackling this with tongue-in-cheek marketing and creative euphemisms, which they say make the products seem less intimidating and encourage first-time buyers.
Anushka said: “There’s this shame, guilt and fear associated with buying something that should be used in your intimate areas, and that’s the first thing we wanted to turn around.”
MyMuse has quickly grown in popularity among young professionals.
Investors are also betting on India’s sex toy market. In 2020, TechSci Research found that the country’s nascent sex toys sector was valued at $91 million and is predicted to grow 16% annually.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2021, the Guptas began shipping out discreetly packaged sex toys from a spare bedroom in their home.
They benefitted from Indian tech start-ups as they received seed funding from venture capitalist firms.
They have made more than a dozen hires and now ship to nearly 200 cities nationwide.
Using a targeted social media campaign, the Guptas say they are trying to reframe the conversation around sex away from “sleazy” portrayals in Bollywood films.
Anushka explained: “(We want to) just remove all of that misogyny, sexism from this idea and just make it something that’s beautiful, that’s natural, universal.”
There are an increasing number of companies for those looking to spice up their sex lives.
Fellow start-up Gizmoswala offers same-day delivery on bondage kits for Mumbai residents while LoveTreats encourages customers to discover their “naughty side” with lingerie sets and remote-controlled vibrators.
But they still need to contend with the rest of society, particularly more conservative generations.
Sex education specialist Jaya Aiyappa said:
“There are many Indias when it comes to sexual awareness.
“While one India has accepted and changed, another is changing slowly and another is still 10 or 20 years behind.”
This regressive side has been witnessed on numerous occasions.
Politicians and the police have also been accused of raiding hotels and nightclubs and attacking young people for public displays of affection, drinking or wearing immodest clothing.
Customs seized a haul of sex toys in 2021 because Indian law still bans the import of “toys that resemble human body parts”.
Jaya Aiyappa warned that the lack of dialogue around sex could lead to misinformation and abuse.
She added that efforts to introduce a broader sex education school curriculum have faced backlash.
Anushka realised that things needed to change when she returned from working abroad and struggled to find basic sexual health products.
“This is a situation that’s fundamentally broken.”
“It’s the most typically Indian conundrum where they will not talk to a woman about sex at all until she’s married, and the moment she’s married they’ll be like, ‘So when’s the baby coming’?”
But beyond challenging social norms, this new wave of start-ups are an opportunity for a “sexual wellness” industry in India.
Sahil says that most young married couples still live with their parents and that the bedroom is their only place of real privacy.
He said: “The bedroom in India for a lot of people is one of the few safe spaces that is untouched.”
MyMuse plans to expand into clothing and offer sex counselling services.